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Eagles Better Than They Showed On Sunday

Now that the emotions have cooled a bit, and the path to Saturday night has been established, the retrospective view of the loss in Dallas is that the Eagles are a much better team than the one that showed up in the regular-season finale, and the task ahead is to prove it in the playoffs.

There are no secrets here. I can't imagine either team coming out with a radically-different game plan. There is only so much you can introduce with three practice days between games. The Eagles are back at it today, with a high energy level and enough motivation to fill up the City of Philadelphia wafting through the halls of the NovaCare Complex.

It's going to come down to playing great football. Oh, there will be some adjustments in the schemes, and maybe a tweaking of the personnel, but the only way for the Eagles to turn the tables on Dallas is to play better man-on-man football.

As usual, it starts at the line of scrimmage. The offensive line has to establish something up front, has to give quarterback Donovan McNabb time to set up and throw the football, has to provide some lanes for the running game. Nick Cole, by all accounts, did a good job in his first start at center. He and Max Jean-Gilles should be measurably better in their second start together.

The Eagles, though, have to counter the Dallas blitz. It was deadly on Sunday. McNabb was sacked four times, pressured out of his comfort area plenty of other times and was forced to rush too many of his throws. How offensive line coach Juan Castillo adjusts is a big question here.

On defense, of course, the Eagles can't allow Dallas to eat up the clock and drive 80 yards in 10 plays three times a game. The Cowboys are too balanced, too potent, too efficient to have that opportunity. Somehow, coordinator Sean McDermott has to dial up some pressure and create heat on quarterback Tony Romo as well as the Dallas running game.

The playoffs are a whole new ballgame. I like Andy Reid's approach, as usual. He is taking an upbeat, confident and very focused mindset into this week of preparation. He knows the Cowboys have handled his football team twice. He knows the Cowboys are playing on their home field.

He also knows the Eagles have a tremendous amount of pride and talent, and that a season of accomplishment wasn't wiped away by a single day where everything went wrong for the Eagles.

This is one-and-done time. This is the playoffs. The Eagles are in a familiar place. To beat Dallas, Philadelphia must be razor-sharp in every aspect of its performance on Saturday night. Nobody is dwelling on Sunday's loss. That is old news. Dallas is the focus now, and how to beat a good football team.

Nothing else matters. Not what happened in 16 games this year. Not what happens after Saturday. All that matters is beating Dallas and keeping a season alive. The Eagles won 11 games this year because they had an explosive offense, an opportunistic defense and a big-play special teams group. That hasn't changed. They have to bring all of that and more to the table on Saturday night. Do that, and we'll see how the game plays out.

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